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You’ll feel like you’ve entered a glamorous bygone era when you step inside the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, but the bill will bring you back to reality quickly. Pros: Centrally located, gorgeous building with character, top-notch service. Cons: Hard to find a deal, location isn’t easy on the legs.
Perched on a hilltop near Chinatown, Union Square and the Financial District, the The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco feels like a character in an old black-and-white movie. And with good reason: The building, which takes up a whole city block, was constructed in 1909 — a neoclassical façade greets visitors.
One of the Bay Area’s gems, the property’s been through many millions of dollars of renovations between 2011 and 2014. Regardless of the room you get — there are 336, including 60 suites — an initial elegance sets the mood. Outside, iconic columns, beautifully lit from below at night, give the structure a ghostly elegance.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco is a Tier 4 property, which means you’ll need to redeem 60,000 Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Rewards points for a one-night stay. I used the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to book so I could earn 2x points for all my travel and dining charges — unfortunately, I took my trip right before I got the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which would have given me 3x points for the same kinds of purchases. Like so many things in San Francisco, the room was expensive: I paid $699 per night plus $114.84 in taxes and fees, leading to an eye-opening $813.84 total for my one-night stay. On the bright side, counting all the meals consumed on the premises, I ended up earning a total of 2,081 Ultimate Rewards points.
The online room chart compares the various spaces you can stay in — from a 400-square-foot guest room like the one I had to the presidential suite, which is 1,960 square feet and comes with a 1,200-foot balcony.
Had I used the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card — which I now have — I would have been able to earn 5x points for every dollar spent at participating properties, plus another 2x points for every dollar spent on flights purchased directly with the airline, as well as at car rental agencies and restaurants. I would have also been able to take advantage of its $300 annual travel credit for baggage fees, seat upgrades and airport lounges, among other travel needs. Ok, lesson learned.
- The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
- 600 Stockton Street
- San Francisco, California 94108
- (415) 296-7465
- Room Type
- Deluxe Guest Room
Note that the overnight valet charge would have added $65 more — yikes — so this is an ideal town to use Uber to get around. If you pay with the The Platinum Card from American Express, you’ll be able to get $200 in annual ride credits as well as Uber VIP status, which gives you access to better cars and more experienced drivers in select cities.
When you pull up to the building, a valet/doorman in a top hat just may greet you — he too harks back to another era. These nattily dressed greeters aren’t just standing around looking happy, either. They hustle. Taxis drive right up to the front doors to let passengers unload and the workers can’t let the queue of cars get too large. What this means is if you have a question about the hotel, you’re better off walking inside to the front desk instead of waiting for one of these valets to stop and give you the time of day.
The front desk, just to the right when you enter (a left takes you to the restaurant Parallel 37), is uncluttered. Stone floors and desks give the space an elegant and cool vibe.
The check-in area is decorated with white and green flowers in clear vases — and a basket of fresh local fruit (plums when I stayed).
Like the rooms at many other Ritz-Carlton hotels, this one was immaculate, tasteful… and old-fashioned. The blue theme hit me over the head when I first entered; the carpet, round neck pillows and duvet are all navy.
Light streamed in through the windows, but I was equally happy to close the curtains and maintain my privacy.
I like to read — books, magazines, newspapers, even on my iPad — and I especially liked the way this sofa-bed-reading-chair thing was positioned to take advantage of all the natural light.
Looking out the windows was less inspiring. The view indicates just how steep the hill we’re perched on is. I did not have any problems with noise, cars or honking.
I wrestled with one issue: Are boxy phones with buttons for every department a great intuitive way to help guests make calls or is this evidence that the hotel needs to upgrade its telecommunications system? I guess it depends on what you like — I prefer this to some tablet interfaces I’ve seen.
Some bathroom amenities are more appreciated than others. Dual sinks? Yes, I like. Dual toilet paper rolls? Not so necessary. While I like marble floors and counters, I felt like this bathroom was cluttered; there seemed to be too many knick knacks on the walls between all the glass shelves, towels, outlets, a mirror and a phone.
And that yellow trash can does not scream luxury. It screams, “send me back to the ’70s.”
Tub fans: Your porcelain awaits you. I’m more of a shower guy and I like that they have both rainforest and standard heads.
Food and Beverage
To test the concierge, I asked him where I could get some good coffee. If he was really just up-selling me, he would have told me to get my java juice in the hotel lounge. If he was lazy or clueless, he would have directed me to some chain cafe like Starbucks. I appreciated that he picked a non-chain — Café de la Presse — and circled where it was on the free map.
I sampled the room service one morning and appreciated some of the details: artfully chopped fruit, a truly large pot of coffee and flower petals in a small, square vase. The price for this yogurt-fruit-and-coffee breakfast: $48.78 including tip.
On the ground floor of the hotel are two food and drink courts: Chef Michael Rotondo’s globally inspired California cuisine at Parallel 37 and “The Lounge,” both of which are remarkably charming. The name “Parallel 37” reinforces the local, farm-to-table nature of the menu; it’s the geographic latitude that runs through the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s where Rotondo sources his meat, poultry and seafood.
The bar space has a modern rustic vibe. In addition to polished wood, there are trees and coral reef motifs on the walls and a generous application of brown, yellow and beige tones found throughout the decor.
What to drink at luxury hotel in one of the country’s best food and drink towns? There were more than 20 wines by the glass when I visited (that’s a healthy number), organized into sparkling wines, whites, rosés and reds, but prices aren’t cheap and you can expect to spend $15 to $20 on a glass. The selection includes, naturally, wines made in Napa and other local wine-country areas, but also features a healthy mix of French and Italian options.
Cocktails have unusual names like Honey Scrub and Ballyhoo. I was pleasantly surprised by the Pigs ‘n’ Boots made from Pig’s Nose Scotch, Lillet Rose, lavender, yuzu and cinnamon. There’s also local beer on tap and in cans — and no, canned beers are not inherently inferior to bottled ones. In one corner of the bar menu, there’s a whole section labeled “For the Unspirited,” including root beer, ginger beer and a house-made passionfruit and vanilla soda, ideal for folks who, for whatever reason, can’t drink alcohol.
The food here ranges from fancy snacks (decadent things like duck fries and avocado toast) and raw bar items (like oysters and yellowtail sashimi) to larger fare, including appetizers ($14-$24 for various soups, salads and pastas), main courses ($28-$55 for chicken, pork, duck or lamb), and chef’s specials (bone-in short rib for $115, for instance). I had a three-course meal for $75 (the price has since been reduced to $65). There’s also a five-course meal for $105; add $70 if you want wine pairings with that. Many dishes feature Asian ingredients — like shiso and lemongrass.
The staff was attentive — I was dining alone and was offered a newspaper to read (I hoped I didn’t look bored). The plating of the food was notable; several dishes applied a modern splatter approach, mixing bright greens with vibrant yellows and reds. I had hand-cut linguini with chorizo, olives and grilled calamari (pictured below, left) and the herb-crusted rack of lamb (pictured below, right).
After checkout, I needed to do some work before my flight, so I visited the lounge on the ground floor and found it to be very hospitable. I never felt rushed to give up the seat and the staff even packed up some cookies for me in a box so I could take them with me. The pièce de résistance was that chandelier.
I love every stuffy detail about The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, from the top-hatted valets to the imposing façade and room decor, which is anything but modern. This is a destination teeming with pros in the service industry. For tourists, the location is ideally situated near several neighborhoods that are worth a visit. Just remember to bring two things: comfortable walking shoes to get up and down those hills and a credit card that can transform the high cost into worthwhile perks.
Have you ever stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco? Tell us about your experience, below.
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